Spotlight: Don't Trust Anyone Over Thirty

It's a dodgy business, regarding one's elders as inherently square. Each generation yields its share of conventional dullards, as well as glorious, groundbreaking freaks: For every pipe-smoking, platitude-spouting Ward Cleaver type in the '50s, there was a speedy Jack Kerouac, blazing on drug binges and writing novels in a matter of days. In the '60s, the notion of generational incompatibility was granted a certain blunt poetry with the catchy phrase "Don't trust anyone over 30"--from which the opening show of this year's Out There series takes its name. Based on the obscure 1968 film Wild in the Streets, this "multimedia puppet rock opera" concerns Neil Sky, a rock star who is elected president after sparking teenage riots to lower the voting age, and who doses Congress with acid (dosing the unsuspecting is never, never ethical. Still, in this case...). The show combines the visual work of artist Dan Graham, video projections by Tony Oursler, and puppet work by Phillip Huber, who created the daft marionette cultural revolution sequence in Being John Malkovich. An advance viewing on video revealed a stage teeming with visual ideas and an overall sense of ridiculousness. Rodney Graham's songs are performed by Brooklyn art-punk duo Japanther, with lyrics typified by the title number's sage take on the post-30 set: "They're fucking old and they're fucking mean." (Guilty as charged.) Just about every '60s cliché is run through the conceptual mixer, with much talk of "the Man." But--surprise--once the groovy people take charge, they turn out to be just as bad as the fogeys they overthrew. Wild in the Streets was a satire in the first place, and the excesses of the psychedelic era are eternally ripe for ribbing. It's worth noting, though, that dewy-eyed romanticism has its appeal. The anti-hippies in charge of America today (alas, the Man seems to have scored an enduring victory) don't seem the types to have outgrown youthful ideals of utopian egalitarianism and free expression--because they never had them in the first place. Neil Sky, we hardly knew you.

 
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